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Brazilian Highlight – Local Customs

How to Be Polite in Brazil

If you are planning on visiting Brazil, you may find it useful to brush up on your Portuguese or research local customs. Don’t forget to include physical gestures and greetings in your research, or you may find yourself in an unintentionally tense situation. Certain gestures are considered extremely rude, while others (like a kiss on the cheek) are part of customary greetings. The following are quick tips on how to be polite in Brazil.

The Kiss as a Greeting 

Not only do Brazilians kiss as a way of saying, “hello,” they do it in a very specific way. The number of kisses and where they are placed can change depending on where you are in the country.

If you are unsure of how many kisses to give, a single kiss with the right cheek touching the other person’s is a good place to start. This is the greeting most common in Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.

In Rio, two kisses are customary. In Bahia, expect to receive three or more kisses! 

While this may seem overly familiar to Americans, do not refuse a kiss as a greeting. It is a platonic gesture that is a universal custom. Touching of the arms and back is also commonplace and it is considered rude to recoil or back away.

Symbolic Gestures and Sounds in Brazil

Brazilians use a thumbs up and thumbs down to convey approval or disapproval, respectively. Avoid using the American “okay” sign, which makes an “o” shape with index and thumb touching. This is a rude symbol in Brazil that translates roughly to extending your middle finger in the us.

A clicking of the tongue while shaking one’s head can also signify disappointment in Brazil. 

Accepting an Invitation in Brazil

If you have been invited to dinner or a party, dress to impress! Not only is it a sign of respect to dress up, you will find yourself embarrassingly underdressed if you do not make the extra effort. Brazilians dress up in stylish attire for all occasions, and it is considered impolite to be too casual.

Keep in mind that time is more relaxed in Brazil. There is often no strict start time or end time to an event. Even if there is an established meeting time, you may find your Brazilian friends are more than a few minutes late. 

Rules for Eating in Brazil

Brazilians tend not to eat food with their hands. This means using a fork and knife, even for foods such as fruit. In the case of street food, it is acceptable to hold the food with a napkin while eating, but never with bare hands. 

To signal a server in a restaurant, you can raise one index finger. Do your best to eat all the food on your plate to show you enjoyed it. 

Final Suggestions to Remain Polite in Brazil

If you are staying in Brazil, consider adopting these additional rules of general etiquette:

  • Do not blow your nose in public
  • Do not touch food with your hands
  • Brush your teeth after lunch if you do not already do so
  • Do not inquire about income
  • Do not ask someone their age
  • Do not leave without saying “good-bye”
  • Do not discuss politics, religion, or economic status
  • Do not refer to Brazilians as “Latin Americans”
  • Avoid swearing
  • Expect to be educated on the subject of soccer, or “football”
  • Do not be visibly bothered if someone is late

Get a Taste of Brazil at Home

You can enjoy Brazil’s famous hospitality and cuisine in one of our 50+ restaurants, or try your hand at preparing picanha at home with our specialty meats delivered right to your door. Visit our butcher shop to find out more. 

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